St Fidelis Church – One of the 8 Wonders of Kansas

St. Fidelis Church, 900 Cathedral Avenue, Victoria, Kansas, Združene države Amerike

Website of the Sanctuary

785-735-2777.

Open during daylight hours

On May 14, 1971, St Fidelis Church was placed in the National Register of Historic Places as a building of “architectural significance.” On January 29, 2008, the church was named one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas. On February 21, 2014, the church was declared a minor basilica by the pope.

The basilica welcomes over 16,000 tourists a year. It is open during daylight hours for anyone wishing to visit.

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St Fidelis Church one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas

St. Fidelis Church was named as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas during a ceremony held at the Capitol in Topeka on January 29, 2008. The announcement was made by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. The 8 Wonders of Kansas campaign was sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation and encouraged the exploration of Kansas’s many spectacular sites.

The public nominated places in Kansas and then on June 1, 2007, the Kansas Sampler Foundation announced 24 finalists. People were encouraged to vote for the the 8 they found most interesting. Voting ended on December 31, 2007, with over 24,000 votes being cast.

Guided tours

Several parishioners of St. Fidelis Catholic Church, “The Cathedral of the Plains”, in Victoria, St. Ann Catholic Church in Walker, St. Boniface Catholic Church in Vincent, and Holy Cross Church in Pfeifer donate their time to provide guided tours of the churches for tour buses or other large groups.

Interior of the St Fidelis Church

Entering the church you stand in a spacious vestibule. To the left is a room that was used for many years as the Baptistry. Recently this room was converted into a vestiary where the celebrant for the Mass vests in preparation for the procession to the altar to say Mass. To the right is the staircase leading up to the choir loft. Two bathrooms were installed in this area in recent years.

As the doors are opened to the church proper, your eyes become focused on the beautiful interior. You cannot help but to be overcome with a degree of reverence and respect as you see before you such a magnificent and beautiful house of God. Your mind becomes bewildered and in search for words that could possibly answer your curiosity and astonishment.

How could all this have happened so many years ago and who was responsible for it all? You see the two rows of large granite pillars standing on either side of the center isle supporting the stone walls and arches that rest on them. The large arches in the center of the church supporting the roof, with a span of 29 feet, resting on the pillars.

The smaller stone arches, having a 16 foot span, support the recessed stone walls and also resting on the pillars. The large wooden arches in the ceiling are built into the roof supports. Heavy cross beams and roof supports contribute to the sturdiness of the roof structure. Every opening in the church has a stone supporting arch. All the altars stand in front of the credence, a shallow recessed arched wall. Everything was constructed in strict conformity to the Romanesque architecture.

The walls and ceiling are covered with a coat of plaster and painted. Plastering (including material) covers 7,000 square yards and the cost amounted to $3,600. The floor in the vestibule was covered with tile resembling mosaic tile. 800 square feet were laid at a cost of $475.

“8 Wonders of Kansas”

St. Fidelis Church was named as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas during a ceremony held at the Capitol in Topeka on January 29, 2008. The announcement was made by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. The 8 Wonders of Kansas campaign was sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation and encouraged the exploration of Kansas’s many spectacular sites.

The public nominated places in Kansas and then on June 1, 2007, the Kansas Sampler Foundation announced 24 finalists. People were encouraged to vote for the the 8 they found most interesting. Voting ended on December 31, 2007, with over 24,000 votes being cast.

GUIDED TOURS

Several parishioners of St. Fidelis Catholic Church, “The Cathedral of the Plains”, in Victoria, St. Ann Catholic Church in Walker, St. Boniface Catholic Church in Vincent, and Holy Cross Church in Pfeifer donate their time to provide guided tours of the churches for tour buses or other large groups.

Call the Parish Office at 785-735-2777 to make arrangements for a tour.

SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION (CONFESSIONS)
7:30 – 8:00 p.m. – Mondays – The Basilica of St. Fidelis or by appointment (contact the Parish Office)

 

INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH

Entering the church you stand in a spacious vestibule. To the left is a room that was used for many years as the Baptistry. Recently this room was converted into a vestiary where the celebrant for the Mass vests in preparation for the procession to the altar to say Mass. To the right is the staircase leading up to the choir loft. Two bathrooms were installed in this area in recent years.

As the doors are opened to the church proper, your eyes become focused on the beautiful interior. You cannot help but to be overcome with a degree of reverence and respect as you see before you such a magnificent and beautiful house of God. Your mind becomes bewildered and in search for words that could possibly answer your curiosity and astonishment. How could all this have happened so many years ago and who was responsible for it all? You see the two rows of large granite pillars standing on either side of the center isle supporting the stone walls and arches that rest on them. The large arches in the center of the church supporting the roof, with a span of 29 feet, resting on the pillars. The smaller stone arches, having a 16 foot span, support the recessed stone walls and also resting on the pillars. The large wooden arches in the ceiling are built into the roof supports. Heavy cross beams and roof supports contribute to the sturdiness of the roof structure. Every opening in the church has a stone supporting arch. All the altars stand in front of the credence, a shallow recessed arched wall. Everything was constructed in strict conformity to the Romanesque architecture.

The walls and ceiling are covered with a coat of plaster and painted. Plastering (including material) covers 7,000 square yards and the cost amounted to $3,600. The floor in the vestibule was covered with tile resembling mosaic tile. 800 square feet were laid at a cost of $475.

ALTARS

Walking up the center aisle you see the large and inspiring altar, one of the most beautiful constructed altars to be found in any church. So eloquently designed and constructed it is a masterpiece in the field of art and sculpture. The sight alone is an inspiration for prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord and to the pioneers, who by their untold sacrifices of labor, time and money provided for the purchase of these beautiful altars and all the interior furnishings. No doubt that if these sacrifices had not been made at that time we would not be able to enjoy and cherish this beautiful house of God today. They did this for the love of God and their faith so that for generations to follow they may and can also enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The high altar is adorned with a large pedestal on either side, on which stand the statues of St. Peter and st. Paul. Each pedestal bears a throne which extends above the statue capped with a cupola matching the design of the altar. In the center of the altar is a large oil painting which depicts the martyrdom of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, which occurred in 1622. He was murdered by the Calvinists who opposed his teachings of the Catholic faith. This painting was painted in Innsbruck, Austria. It was installed with the altar in the old church in 1892 at a cost of $109. In the arch above the altar is a gold mosaic painting which adds additional beauty and may be well called a halo signifying the sacredness of the altar. On pedestals stand two angels holding a candelabrum as though in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

In compliance with the liturgical movement a portable altar was installed in the sanctuary and the sacrifice of the Mass is said facing the congregation.

The high altar, the two large pedestals and the two outer side altars were manufactured by the Schroeder Brothers in Cincinnati, Ohio. The altar and pedestals were installed in 1892 in the old church and upon completion of the new church were transferred into the new church. The tow outer side altars were installed in 1893 and transferred into the new church. The cost of the high altar amounted to $900 plus $109 freight. The outer side altars cost $425. The large pedestals $100 plus $14 freight.

The two side altars, the Sacred Heart and Blessed Mother were made locally by John Linnenberger and installed in 1916 at a cost of $600. Mr. Linnenberger was an outstanding carpenter and capable of doing wood carving by hand. He made a number of church furnishings and in most instances donated his labor.

STATUES

A number of the statues in the church are nearly 100 years old. The following statues were donated and installed in 1884 and stood in the previous church: Sacred Heart, Mary Queen of Heaven, Sorrowful Mother, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua.

Donated in 1894: St Francis of Assissi, St. Ludwig, St. Elizabeth, Jesus in the grave or Pieta.

Donated in 1905: The Lord’s resurrection.

Donated in 1913: St. Peter, St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Aloysius, St. rose of Lima, St. Ann, Guardian Angel, St. Joseph and St. Agnes.

Later a statue of the Little Flower was added.

COMMUNION RAILING

The present communion railing was installed prior to the dedication services 1911. It was donated by the members of the St. Fidelis Verein, (Parish organization for men). The cost is unknown for lack of records. It was built by the Bernard Ferring Company. Considering the workmanship and its beauty, the cost must have been quite high. Originally the railing extended the full width of the sanctuary. Prior to 1948, the railing stood on the sanctuary floor with a flight of steps leading up to it from the church floor. Senior citizens found it difficult to walk up the four steps to the railing and constantly posted the danger of falling and getting hurt. In February of 1948, the railing was shortened and lowered to the lower step. The steps were removed and an alley left between the railing and the sanctuary floor to provide walking space for the Eucharistic ministers to distribute communion. In 1979 the steps in the center aisle leading up to the sanctuary were widened to provide more space for the ministers distributing communion. The sanctuary floor and steps were covered with a new rug to enhance the beauty of the sanctuary.

PULPIT

Originally, the pulpit, as in most churches at that time, was elevated about six feet above the sanctuary floor. Steps led up to the pulpit. A large canopy was placed above the pulpit. Its purpose was to help and improve the listening capacity of the audience. As a joke some said the pulpit was raised so that the priest could see who was sleeping during his sermon.

In 1954, this pulpit was removed and replaced with the present marble pulpit. It was a gift from Monsignor Michael Dreiling, a native son. It was dedicated on the feast of St. Frances, October the fourth. After being dedicated Monsignor Dreiling delivered the first sermon from the pulpit.

WINDOWS

Plain frosted glass windows were originally installed with storm glasses. In 1916 the present colored glass windows were installed. For many years it was believed that the colored glass windows were manufactured in America since they were purchased through a Chicago firm. Some years ago an internationally known colored window artist visited the church and positively identified them as having been made in Munich, Germany, by one of the oldest colored glass firms in the world. They are considered the outstanding windows of their type in the United States with only a few Cathedrals in Europe having superior colored glass windows. They were installed by Hans Muencie of German. The cost was $3,700. A great blessing to have such windows here on the plains of Kansas.

At mid-day when the sun shines brightly on the windows, the church is filled with an array of beautiful colors. There are eighteen colored glass windows, the three round rose windows not included, and each window is so designed to portray some biblical event of our Lord and the Blessed Mother. To fully appreciate their beauty and design, the viewer needs to spend some time in church in carefully examining each window.

The large rose window on the west side of the church features the picture of St. Caecilia. The south window St. Aloysius and the north window St. Lawrence, of Brindisi, a martyred young man who died for his faith.

SANCTUARY LAMP

The sanctuary lamp used in the old church was re-plated with gold and hung in the sanctuary until 1928 when a new and very ornamental sanctuary lamp was installed. Originally a special olive oil was used in the lamps and a floating wick burned for many hours on a filling of oil.

STATIONS OF THE CROSS

The stations of the cross hanging in St. Fidelis Church are rated among the finest found in any church. They were made in Tyrol, Austria. They are made of Lynden wood, a very beautiful and endurable wood. The figurines are beautifully carved and painted in natural colors. The painting a carvings were exquisitely done with the background painted in a natural scenic setting giving the station a three dimensional effect. Very beautiful indeed. The large frames also of Lynden wood are finished in the natural wood color. The cost per station was $135.

The prayers of the Stations of the Cross are not only said during the Lenten season , but on many occasions parishioners are seen praying the stations and meditating on Christ’s suffering on the way to mount Calvary where he was crucified and died for the sins of man on earth.

FIRST LIGHTING SYSTEM

As the church neared completion a carbide or acetylene lighting system was installed to furnish light for the church when evening services were to be held. The gas for the lights was formed by placing dry carbide in a specially designed under ground tank and with water added the chemical action created a gas which was piped into the basement of the church. Two rows of plated pipes about seven feet high were placed down the center aisle of the church along the side of the pews and a row of pipes also stood along the outer walls. They were all connected to the supply line. Each pipe was fitted at its top with a valve, a V-shaped burner and a glass shade. The lights were lit individually with a taper after the valve was opened to let the gas escape. The flame created a soft light and lit up the church to a degree so that the people could see fairly well. This was a common system used in churches, homes and business places and kept in use until electricity became available. In 1916 the church was wired for electric lights and the carbide system was removed.

PEWS

The pews from the old church were installed in the new church. They were refinished and used until 1950 when they were replaced by one hundred and thirty-six new light oak pews. They were manufactured by a church furnishing company in Garnett, Kansas at a cost of $12,000.

BELLS

The bells that summoned the faithful to church for services since 1884 were installed in the new church towers in 1911. The largest bell weighing 1300 pounds, one 575 pounds and the smaller weighing 275 pounds. These bells harmonized beautifully and when the atmospheric conditions were right they could be heard for miles away. A small bell, christened St. Anthony, donated in 1910 was hung in the small tower above the choir or chapel. It was used to summon the Friars to the choir for prayer. In more recent years another large bell was installed in the tower and to relieve the sacristan from ringing the bells by hand four electric motor bell ringers were installed. The sacristan walked many miles each year to and from the sacristy to ring the bells. The ropes hung in the vestibule of the church.

This equipment was purchased from the Verdin Machine Company, Cincinnati, Ohio at the cost of $1,900. A push of the button rings the bells, they can be rung in unison or rung individually as a toll bell for funerals. It has been noticed that since this system was installed the usual loud sound of the bells has been reduced and its carrying distance reduced.

Every morning at six A.M., at midday and at six P.M. the Angelus is rung reminding the faithful that is time to pray the Angelus. The pioneer families, regardless in what work they were engaged stopped and recited the angelus. This custom still prevails in many homes today. The bells are rung about 3000 times annually.

PAINTING

The cost of the first painting, finishing and fescoing amounted to $2,000. In 1943 the natural finished wood altars were painted white, trimmed with golf leaf paint and the parts of the altars having a round post structure were marbleized, likewise other parts were marbleized to beautify the looks of the altars. The communion railing was also painted white and the middle portion with the round legs were also marbleized to match the altars.

In the early 1950’s the interior was repainted under the supervision of Alex Linnenberger of Hays, Kansas. He was a native son born and raised in Victoria and a son of the late John J. Linnenberger. He was not only a painter but also an artist and painted a number of murals on the walls while the painting was done. He painted a number of churches in this community.

His sons, his brother Bonaventure and sons assisted in the painting. In 1979 the church underwent extensive repairs both on the exterior and interior. Downspouts were repaired and painted, and the parking lot was resurfaced. The interior walls were repaired and painted. The altars received a coat of paint and so did many of the statues. The color applied is a pleasing color for contrast. The cost of this work amounted to over $62,000. The money was made available by donations and fund raising projects. This was all done in about one year’s time.

PIPE ORGAN INSTALLED

In 1890 a pipe organ was installed in the previous church. Several registers were added later to enhance the tone quality. The cost of which was $1,000. This same organ was installed and used in the present church until 1941. Due to the cost of repairing the old pipe organ a new Hammond electronic organ was installed at a cost of $1,725. In 1973 this organ was replaced with a new Allen Computer 600 organ at a cost of $15,000.

William Jennings Bryan, three-times a candidate for President of the United States, visited St. Fidelis in 1912 and nicknamed it the “Cathedral of the Plains.” It is not a cathedral in the strict sense, not being a bishop’s church. The Kansas State Historical Society has designated this church as one of the religious treasures of the state. On May 14, 1971, the federal government inscribed the church in the National Register of Historical Places as a building of “architectural significance.” On May 25, 1986, Bishop George Fitzsimons of Salina, by a special act of consecration and dedication, set aside the marble altar and church for the perpetual and exclusive use of worship. On January 29, 2008, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius pronounced St. Fidelis as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas, a project sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation to determine Kansas’ most important natural or manmade wonders.

On March 6, 2014, the parish was notified that the church was declared a minor basilica. The honor was official as of February 21, 2014. St. Fidelis is the first basilica in Kansas and the 78th in the United States. As a basilica, the church displays a tintinnabulum (bell) and an ombrellino (umbrella) in the sanctuary as symbols of the basilica’s link to the pope. Its official name is now The Basilica of St. Fidelis.

The church has receive many honors, but the highest have been bestowed by countless pilgrims, worshippers, and visitors, who come to this temple in search of God.

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